As planned, our day 3 started early reaching the bus stop at 5:30 AM to board the 6 AM bus for Joshimath. We had already booked our tickets the previous evening. Since August end is considered off season, the earlier 4:30 AM bus had been cancelled.
We were told it’d take 10 hours to reach Joshimath. A grueling 10 hours bus journey in a 20 year old private bus on mountainous roads, and me with altitude sickness and diabetes …. We were sure going to have a tough time. Again, the bus was not full and right from the start the crew were stopping at every opportunity to fill up the bus. This wasn’t welcomed by us but we had no choice. Even when all seats had been filled, the crew was taking in standing passengers! This is illegal in the mountain roads of Uttarakhand.
A very common sight for us.
I had taken an anti-nausea pill to put me to sleep 🙂 but the jerks and stops kept me awake. Minutes after the start we were in the winding scenic mountain roads and within a couple of hours we had first major stop, because of a landslide!
I remember last year we had stopped at the very same place for the same reason! Talking to the locals and the crew I came to know that this area was prone to frequent landslides. The rocks were quite powdery and all efforts by the authorities to strengthen this stretch had failed so far. Of course, hats off to BRO (Border Roads Organization), we started moving in an hour or so.
To talk of the luring the new passengers, the bus had stopped at Nandprayag and the passengers were told they had 10 minutes to eat & re-freshen up. We went out to locate a restroom, crossed the bridge and went to the other side into the market. By the time we returned running, it was more than 20 minutes. We were sure the driver would scold us but no! They were still shouting “Joshimath, Joshimath”. 🙂
BRO at work at another landslide.
We had to stop at least 3 more places on account of landslides and the last one, just a few kilometers before Joshimath, was the worst. The thought still produces pilomotor reflexes (goose bumps 🙂 ). Right in front of our eyes we saw rocks and mud slide down the slopes onto the road and then onto the road below. Even after BRO cleared the debris we had to wait a considerable time to ensure there were no more falling rocks. Especially the 5 metre rock which had slid about 2 metres and stopped…. hanging dangerously. Brrrrr…. quite scary.
Another jam. Can you see the Sign board fallen way down? It’s just above the watermark in this photo.
It was dark when we reached our destination. I had taken TWO anti-nausea pills without any sleep! We had ascended around 1200 Metres and had travelled around 250+ KM. The last few Kilometers the ascent is pretty steep. In all it took us around 14 hours to reach Joshimath. We tried our luck to see if we could move on to Govindghat but could not find any suitable (read inexpensive) transportation. A cab fellow wanted INR 800 for the trip. We were told that during peak time the traffic to Govindghat/Badrinath is regulated and is one way. The direction of traffic switches every two hours with no traffic beyond 4:00 PM. Yet this guy was ready to take us for INR 800. Thankfully we decided against it.
We located the GMVN hotel on the market street, checked in and then enquired about next day’s shared vehicle availability. We later realized that GMVN had another hotel which we found was better and so we had our dinner there. I made a mental note to stay there the next time.
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